What Is Migraine?

Migraine is one of the most misunderstood conditions. Is it a condition, an illness or a disease?

Google ‘what is migraine’ is to discover that there’s no clear cut definition. The Migraine Trust’s definition is:

“Migraine is a complex condition with a wide variety of symptoms. For many people the main feature is a painful headache. Other symptoms include disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, sound and smells, feeling sick and vomiting. Migraine attacks can be very frightening and may result in you having to lie still for several hours.”

While there are a myriad of migraine classifications the main two types are migraine with aura and migraine without aura.

4 Typical Phases of Migraine

1. Pro-drome
Between 30-40% of people with migraine experience the pro-drome phase. Possible signs, which can last from 1 – 24 hours, include:

  • constipation or diarrhea &/or needing to pee more often
  • trouble concentrating
  • yawning lots, feeling tired &/or sleepy
  • craving foods e.g chocolate, salty chips, vinegar, coffee, lemons
  • hyperactivity
  • changing moods – feeling depressed, impatience, short-tempered etc.
  • neck pain

2. Aura
Approximately, 25% of people with migraine experience this phase, which can last from 5-60 minutes. It can include:

  • feeling hypersensitive to touch so what would be “normal” is painful
  • visual disturbances such as dark spots, coloured spots, wavy lines, zigzags and stars.
  • smelling odours that aren’t really there
  • feeling dizzy
  • vertigo

  • numbness or tingling
  • pins and needles in the arms and legs.
  • weakness on one side of the body

3. Headache
Pain experienced during the headache phase, which is often be the most debilitating part of a migraine episode, can range from mild to severe to unbearable. It is usually on one side of the head, but not always.

Other symptoms that some people experience during this phase include nausea (feeling like you’re going to throw up) and vomiting (throwing up). You may also feel more sensitive to light and sound, leading many people to seek sanctuary in a quiet, dark room.

4. Post-drome
Also known as the ‘migraine hangover’, the post-drome phase is still part of a migraine episode. This phase may last a few hours up to several days. Typically symptoms include:

  • tiredness – feeling like a washed-out rag
  • feeling euphoric
  • feeling downhearted
  • struggling to think clearly and concentrate

What should you do if you don’t know if your symptoms are migraine?

Don’t self-diagnosis via Google – go see your Doctor.

Dry facts are just the bare bones of what migraine is.

That is because migraine is not just a pain sensation; it is an experience, an experience that impacts your whole life.

Perhaps a more insightful question to ask is not “what is migraine?” but “what does it mean for you to live with migraine?” It is one question that I always ask my clients at the start of their Freedom from Migraine programme.

For too Many People, Living With Migraine Means

Being anxious over when the next episode will happen.
Missing out on life’s important events
Being absent from the lives of the people that matter most to you.

Above all of that, living with migraine means being doubted, misunderstood and stigmatized.

Calling Time on Migraine Stigma

1 billion people in the world get migraine and not one of them sits down and thinks, “Today, I’ll give myself a migraine”. It is time to change this unhelpful and downright cruel attitude. In fact it is long overdue.

What’s your most surprising migraine symptom? Share below.